Congress May Be in Recess, but DBSA Advocacy Is Not
Manuel has been active in his DBSA chapter, providing and receiving support. But like many, his mental health challenges increased during the pandemic. So, he jumped at the chance to receive one-on-one peer support services offered by the DBSA national organization. Funding for these services was available through a two-month SAMHSA ECHO grant. After his first visit, his assigned peer support specialist was unsuccessful in reaching him to schedule further visits. Several weeks later, after the grant funding had expired, Manuel contacted the peer specialist, sharing he had been unavailable because he had experienced a crisis and had been hospitalized.
Overall, the program recognized impressive outcomes. Eighty percent of people enrolled completed the program with a median decrease in PHQ-9 score of forty-seven percent. However, without funding this model is not sustainable. Manuel’s experience and the program’s overall positive outcomes are proof that we need funding for more programs of this type.
DBSA has been working with Congressional leaders to provide solutions. Two bills introduced in Congress provide funding to on-the-ground organizations, as we continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19. The impact of this public health crisis on the mental health of Americans has been just as significant as that of their physical health. Addressing the need for increased funding for comprehensive mental health services, including peer support services and telehealth is more critical now than ever.
More individuals are experiencing the effects of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. According to the CDC Mental Health Household Pulse Survey, almost thirty percent of Americans are reporting symptoms of depression, and notably, this represents a twenty-six percent increase over the last three months.
Mail Delays Could Affect Millions of Americans’ Mail-Order Prescriptions
DBSA is equally concerned about the crisis facing mail delivery and how it will directly impact people in our community. More than twenty percent of Americans receive medications by mail, and data from the first seven months of 2020 show that use of mail-order prescriptions increased by twenty percent over 2019, as patients stocked up on prescriptions and avoided retail settings in the early weeks of the pandemic. The most commonly filled mail-order prescriptions treat chronic physical conditions and depression, which alone account for approximately ten percent of all prescriptions.
In spite of increased demand for these life saving medications, the Postmaster General instituted changes in the operation of the U.S. Postal Service in July that result in mail delivery delays. For example, in Cook County, Illinois, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Claudia Fegan, reports more than twenty-three percent of mail-order prescriptions were delayed in July. That is up from less than one percent delayed in March.
“This is yet another example of the impact that policy changes have on our vulnerable populations,” Fegan said at a news conference. “Our patients deserve high-quality care and continuity of care. They deserve to be able to receive their medication and not have to worry about how they’ll get to the pharmacy during a pandemic to get their medications.”
Even before the pandemic, use of mail-order pharmacies had been rising in recent years, as they offer convenience and cost savings to patients. Older residents and those in hard to reach rural areas are more likely than others to use mail-order pharmacies. Therefore, any delays in delivery could lead to negative health consequences.
Your voice can make a difference
DBSA is calling on all members of Congress to act on two fronts: shore up the mental health needs of Americans by making funds available to local, on the ground organizations that have the flexibility and efficiency to provide peer support services in their communities and adequately fund the U.S. Postal Service, ensuring Americans continue to receive timely delivery of life-saving medications.
Please join us in asking members of Congress to get back to work and finish the job they started. We need our collective voices, getting the story out around the need. Follow this link to send a pre-written letter to your Senators and U.S. Representative. We encourage you to add your own personal story on the need for peer support and a reliable postal service. We need our collective voices.
Please forward to colleagues, family, and friends to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard.